Anxiety disorders are some of the most common issues to plague adults today. These conditions are particularly prevalent in the senior community. While many people will have the occasional bout with anxiety, an actual anxiety disorder is much more serious. An anxiety disorder can be a constant, overwhelming and debilitating issue that severely impacts a senior's quality of life.
It is important that anxiety disorders in seniors are not confused with excessive worrying. It is common for individuals of all age groups, particularly seniors to deal with stress and worry. However, these feelings are not the same thing as an anxiety disorder. After all, seniors have lived a long time, they have gone through a number of experiences and they have experienced a lot of loss.
For those who are experiencing more than stress and worry, and who have true issues with anxiety, it is important that they diagnose and start treating the issue as soon as possible. Anxiety disorders can have a serious and lasting impact on any senior's quality of life and prevent them from enjoy the life they deserve.
Risk Factors for Anxiety Disorders
There are actually a number of different risk factors that can cause a person to be more likely to have an anxiety disorder. Some of these risk factors include:
- Traumatic experiences
- Excessive worry with physical health
- A difficult childhood
- Consistent daily stress
- Physical limitations
- Prescription medication abuse
- Alcohol or recreational drug abuse
- Taking steroids, stimulants or antidepressants
- Insomnia and other sleep issues
- Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, COPD and thyroid disease
- Experiencing loss
There are a number of different anxiety disorders that can impact seniors, however, some of the most common include the following conditions.
Acute Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder is a condition that occurs when seniors experience short bouts of anxiety or disturbances in regular behavior following a traumatic event. This type of anxiety disorder is used to describe anxiety issues that occur within a month of the extreme trauma.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalize Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is a condition where an individual experiences patterns of excessive worry over everyday events. Typically, these are very common events, such as the mail arriving on time, but the individual cannot grasp the fact that this occurrence is normal and that there is no need to worry about it happening as planned.
Typically, individuals with GAD always expect the worse and they interpret every issue as being much more negative than it really is. They tend to exaggerate things out of proportion. Many individuals with this condition actually know that they are exaggerating and being overly anxious, but they are powerless to stop their reaction. These individuals are also almost always restless and easily startled, many seniors with GAD also experience insomnia.
Those who know a senior with GAD should be on the lookout for issues with substance abuse, as this is quite common in those with this anxiety disorder.
Panic attacks occur when an individual has a sudden and intense feeling of fear or dread. These attacks are often unpredictable and typically illogical and can be triggered by virtually anything imaginable.
Some people will have one panic attack in their entire life, others will get them quite frequently. They are much more common in women then in men. Sometimes issues with dementia or sun-downing can be confused with panic attacks.
Any person who sees a senior having a panic attack should approach them in a clam and gentle manner. It is important to remove the senior from crowded areas and allow them to sit in a quiet, safe place or even lie down. Breathing is one of the most important things an individual can do when they are having a panic attack. Slow, deep breaths can promote relaxation and help the individual snap out of their attack.
For those that have one or two panic attacks in their life, there is typically no reason to get professional help. However, for those who experience frequent panic attacks, a professional may be able to help them learn relaxation techniques or prescribe medication so they can get the help they need to overcome this issue.
There are many people who experience an irrational fear of items or events ranging from flying to spiders. Many times, seniors will have battled phobias their entire lives, but there are instances when phobias worsen with time or when the individual experiences a traumatic event that causes them to start developing a true phobia.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD is increasingly common in senior adults. For many years, there was no official diagnosis for PTSD, and hundreds of thousands of now seniors were dealing with this issue without the care that they needed.
There are many seniors today who are experiencing PTSD from traumatic events such as loss, war, injury and life-threatening problems that happened years or decades ago. PTSD, especially when it is untreated, does not simply go away. There are people that live with this anxiety disorder for their entire lives.
It is never too late to take a senior to a professional for help with PTSD. Many times, seniors will need a balance of counseling and in some cases medication to ultimately overcome their disorder.
When a senior is so concerned about what others think of them that they cannot go out in public, they have what is known as social anxiety. These individuals may not want to leave their homes and may suddenly stop participating in their favorite events. This is also a common sign of depression. Many times, with the right treatment and medication, many seniors are able to overcome their social anxiety and get the help that they need.
Any senior who is experiencing the symptoms of any of these anxiety disorders should visit a healthcare professional right away for further diagnosis. The longer an anxiety disorder goes without treatment, the worse it will get.